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Most Of James O’Keefe’s Dubious Assertions Unchallenged By Hannity

Reported by Ellen - February 2, 2010 -

ACORN videographer and possible felon James O’Keefe appeared on Hannity last night (2/1/10), supposedly to tell his side of the story about his federal arrest for using “false and fraudulent pretense” to enter U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s office for the purpose of “willfully and maliciously interfering” with her telephone system. It’s hard to know what O’Keefe thought he might accomplish on the show. Though he claimed the whole situation was “a misunderstanding,” he refused to answer what, exactly, he and his three cohorts had been trying to accomplish by dressing up as telephone repair people and what, exactly, they had been trying to do with the telephones. He also never said he was innocent of any crime. However, much of what O’Keefe did say strained credibility, to say the least. Sean Hannity, though obviously sympathetic to O’Keefe, did a reasonable job of trying to find out what happened in Landrieu’s office but gave O’Keefe a complete pass on everything that did not add up. With video.

According to O’Keefe, he and his friends went to Senator Landrieu’s office to “get to the bottom of what was going on with her phones.” In a written statement, O’Keefe said, “I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu’s constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn’t want her taking millions of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on the healthcare bill. When asked about this, Senator Landrieu’s explanation was that, 'Our lines have been jammed for weeks.' I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for 'weeks' because her phones were broken. In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office – the people’s office – to ask the staff if their phones were working.”

But O’Keefe never mentioned, either in his written statement or during his two-part interview with Hannity, whether he had asked the senator, anyone on her staff or even the phone company if Landrieu’s phones were working. Nor did he explain how dressing up as telephone repairmen would help get him that information. Hannity never thought to ask, either. Emptywheel, at Firedoglake, noted a number of other suspicious cracks in O'Keefe's story, such as the fact that Landrieu never said her phones had not been working and that the phones in question were at a different office than the one O'Keefe visited.

Yet, O’Keefe kept wrapping himself in the cloak of an “investigative journalist,” insisting his tactics were not much different from NBC, Dateline, 60 Minutes, etc.

“Did you dress up as a telephone repair man or telephone repair people?” Hannity asked.

“Yeah… as far as that’s concerned, I mean, investigative journalists have been using a lot of these tactics for years.”

I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts, as my mother used to say, that there isn’t a single other “investigative journalist” out there who dressed up as a telephone repair person and tried to get into the phone system of a federal official. And O'Keefe is not just in hot water for this little "investigation" but for his ACORN sting as well. ACORN employee Katherine Conway-Russell is suing him in federal court for being improperly recorded by him (and his ACORN-sting partner, Hannah Giles) without her permission and he and Giles are being investigated in California which forbids secret electronic recordings of "confidential communication." Maybe I missed something but I can't recall any other journalist, investigative or otherwise, who has managed to get into so much legal trouble over their tactics.

O’Keefe revealed his utter cluelessness about ethics as he continued, “ACORN actually did one (undercover investigation) with NBC. They went into a tax office in 2005 and they put a videocamera in their sunglasses. And they celebrated it in their annual report… These are things investigative journalists have been doing for years.” Did O’Keefe really not see the difference between going into an office with a hidden camera and going into an office under false pretenses and messing around, or attempting to mess around, with the phone equipment? Apparently not.

Not surprisingly, O’Keefe tried to paint himself as the victim – of “journalism malpractice” because some reports said he had been trying to wiretap Landrieu’s phones. O’Keefe insisted called that “completely false,” and “inexcusable,” and insisted he had no wiretapping equipment on him at Landrieu's office. He accused reporters of “slander(ing) me.” He said “I’m not sure yet” when asked if he would sue the news outlets in question. He may not be sure but I am. He won’t… not unless he wants to be laughed out of court.

And O’Keefe’s mantle of journalistic ethics is even more laughable considering that he has refused to release the unedited ACORN videos while questions have been raised about the edited versions that have been released.

Furthermore, while O'Keefe claims to be so intent on exposing wrongdoing, a Congressional investigation and an independent investigation have each found that there was none by ACORN. O'Keefe on the other hand...

Predictably, that was another issue Hannity overlooked. But it was obvious Hannity didn’t quite buy O’Keefe’s story. “When you went into Landrieu’s office, your intentions were what?” Hannity asked.

O’Keefe repeated his implausible story. “We wanted to get to the bottom of the claim that she was not answering her phones or her phones were jammed. We wanted to find out why her constituents couldn’t get through to her. We wanted to verify the reports.”

“What were your methods?” Hannity asked.

O’Keefe dodged the question. “We used the same tactics that investigative journalists have been using. In all the videos I do. I posed as something I’m not… to get to the bottom of the truth about why they weren’t answering their phones or their intention behind not answering their phones.”

Hannity pressed, “Did you think about it or did you have any issues with the fact that this is a U.S. Senator’s office vs. for example, going into ACORN?”

Now, here’s the answer I found most interesting. If O’Keefe had done nothing wrong, I’d have thought he would have offered that up loud and clear, if not earlier, then now. But he didn’t. He offered only more self-justification. “Generally speaking, it’s the people’s office… And we deserve to find out if they’re accepting $300 million in money. We deserve to find out what’s going on.”

Hannity replied, “I understand but did you have any concern that she’s a U.S. Senator?”

Not much, apparently. O’Keefe said, “Like I’ve said in my statement, I could have used a different approach to this investigation and, you know, I think going forward I’m going to try to be a little more thoughtful about how I approach these things.” A little more thoughtful? Dude, you’re facing federal felony charges here, you’re being sued for your tactics in federal court in Pennsylvania, you might well be charged with another crime in California and all you can say is that you plan to be “a little more thoughtful” going forward?

It got a pass from Hannity. He did, however, press again about O’Keefe’s behavior in Landrieu’s office. “Did you go to the phone bank… I read… you actually went to… where the main phone circuit is.”

O’Keefe dodged the question. “As much as I want to go into this, I just can’t comment any further. There’s an investigation ongoing.”

O’Keefe said that if he were to show the video he said he recorded of the entire incident, it would show, “This is a huge misunderstanding, I think.” He later added, “In all my videos, like in the ACORN videos, I’m trying to get to the bottom of something. I’m trying to expose the truth. I’m trying to get to the true intent about what these people think about their constituents. I’m trying to show the American people, …are they concerned about their constituents? And that’s what I was trying to do.”

Once again, Hannity never asked why merely interviewing people had not been sufficient to “expose the truth.”

Still Hannity made it clear he wasn’t entirely buying O’Keefe’s defense. When O’Keefe reiterated, in Part 2 of the interview, “I still stand behind the fact that investigative journalists have been doing this for years… that’s the tradition I’m following, in sort of a new age journalism,” Hannity responded, “There really is (sic) a lot of similarities to ACORN but I think the one big difference that I see is that this is a Senator’s office, this is a federal building, these are phones, there are very strict laws about wiretapping and so on and so forth… and the fact that you videotaped it is certainly going to confirm or contradict what you’re saying here. But that’s the big difference, though in this case, isn’t it? That this is a senator’s office. By your own admission, you see the difference.”

Once again, O’Keefe was arrogant instead of contrite and yet still not maintaining that he was innocent. “Yeah, I mean, I understand. And I’m going to sort of reflect on this and think about going forward. I’m going to sort of have to adjust, maybe a little bit, the investigative tools I use to do these types of investigations… yes.”

“You didn’t answer the question about whether or not you went into the telephone main control area,” Hannity noted.

O’Keefe said, “I just can’t get that detailed, because there is an investigation.” But he had no problem getting “that detailed” about the fact that he did not have any wiretapping equipment nor that he had had no intention of wiretapping.

O’Keefe ended the interview on a defiant note. “I am not taking a break. Right now, we’re hitting the ground running on more projects.”

Good luck with that!